The digital platforms has changed the life style. It is difficult to imagine our day-to-day without WhatApp in our communication, without AirBnB services in our holidays, commuting without Uber, watch TV series without Netflix or listen our favorite songs without Spotify. Our lifes have been disrupted in last years, as the way we consume products or services are different as well. Consumers are eager to download new apps to connect with their products, share last update on social media and get in touch via communication platform with their friends and family. Data is the new currency but it has to be the more updated as possible in order to be relevant (there is a direct correlation of the value of the info and its update)
Disruption is impacting in the corporations too
This revolution is not only impacting the consumers world, although as consumers, all of us, face it day-to-day. Corporate world is being quickly disrupted as well. The way companies look for providers changed. First of all, there is a big difference, companies don´t look for provider, instead they look for business partner to team up with, in order to build term relationship and get personalized solutions for solving their needs or paint points. There are ton of examples, but one of the best ones is the enterprise software. The go-to-market model more used is the called “Software as a service” (SaaS). Customer buy licences or subscriptions to the service. The core is the same for all the customers, but each of them can customize the solution to meet their needs.
There is not marketing responsible that has the customer focus, customer obsession or customer first strategy on top of his/her mind. This should be the aim of any digital transformation initiative, and if we want to be successful the whole organization should be aware of this, and be reorganized to met this goal. There are a lot of post around this, and I would like to point out to one I wrote in this blog some time ago (Link)
Account based marketing
There are several tactics to deep dive into the customer and get more insights. At the end, we should provide a unique customer experience via a hiper-personalization. In the B2B world there is a new buzzword: Account based marketing (ABM).
It is not a new concept however it is more valid and relevant than never. It is matter to align resources and strategies along sales and marketing, in order to join forces and offer a unique customized and hiper-personalized customer experience, getting back better results and building a stronger relationship with the customer
This new ABM approach required have 3 big pillars in place. Without them, it will be very difficult be succes.
Commitment (with the customer):Main mantra is quality over quantity. It is must provide a unique customer experience, where customization plays a key role. In order to get it, we should have a deep knowledge of the customer, the situation, environment, news and all relevant contacts within the customer organization (DMU-Decision making unit). The result will be a better and deeper engagement with the customer, as we (as company) will be able to address their pain points in a best way, working as business partner. Customer will find our solution relevant and compelling enough due this (hyper)personalization
Internal alignment. It is crucial a strong handshake between sales and marketing (as well as any other stakeholders). The outcome will be reflected in a closed, well-thought and defined top customer list to work with, a unique corporate message, and the selected channels to be used on these communications. Long story short, set up a strategic and tactic plan per customer that will guide all teams to the success. Without these items, it will be more difficult to meet the targets. The real success will be visible when all the teams of the company will team up, to speak up and show one message (co-create by sales and marketing)
Performance and optimization: retrieve data, get insights and make decision base on those (data-driven). On the one hand campaigns should be optimized with the results we get. On the other hand, we should be able to show the benefits of this initiative and ensure we will continue bringing benefits (and profits) to the company. Obviously, the different KPIs and acceptance criteria, that should be agree upfront, could vary per case. However, I would like to mentioned some of the more common ones, such as all those one that measure that long term relationship with the customer is improving or our brand (within our products and services) is present in the organization, being present always in the purchase cycle.
There are several representation of the funnel, and a lot of articles and books were written about it. This funnel used to explain how to manage the leads (or individuals), how to prioritize them, nurture them and get the most in the conversion. However, taking into account all the above, we need to flip the channel. It is not about individuals, it is about companies and all the relevant contacts working there. The funnel should be completely different, working out the list of customer (accounts) we want to explore deeper, expand our present into them, and finally it is about advocacy (how these customers can be our referrals and our voice toward other customers.)
Reasons for this change
The B2B environment has changed a lot in the last years. Because of this the old fashion methods are not valid anymore, or at least no efficient as the new ones are. Initiatives as Account based marketing fit perfectly in the new environment, and tackle all following topics to get most of them:
Customer journey: some of the steps of the CDJ (customer decision journey) have been switched to the digital world. Initial steps as information gathering, vendor comparison are completely digital.
Decision making unit: there is a big bunch of people involved, direct or indirect, in the final vendor selection. We can split them on decision makers and influencers. Each of them will have a key role during the journey, and the information they will ask/need will be from different angles.
Buying cycle: Due the above point, the cycle is longer and more complex. The cycle is not linear anymore, there are more stakeholders with different interests, the decision takes longer, and could more back and forward. It is more difficult (and complex) to get an accurate status, and it required a strong relationship with the customer to manage situation properly.
Digital transformation = No silos
Any digital transformation initiative could be analyzed from different angles. Several goals would be set up, but some of the more common ones are: break silos (enable work across teams), have a single 360 customer view and ensure the customer see us as a one single team (independently the internal organization). Teams would team up, working closely with other stakeholders but being responsible for their own defined taks. In a nutshell:
Marketing: the customization is key when we communicate to the customer. We should have deep knowledge and insights enough from the customer to get it. A progressive profiling approach and a correct nurture strategy will help on this. On the other hand there are other ways to get this data externally via partnership with different 3rd party companies. We should be able to send relevant content, using effective channels, at the correct moment in the buying cycle to the appropriate contact, taking into account the customer organization structure. We must to take care constantly of the communication, that should be not only customized, but also up-to-date. No need to say it is applicable to all the channels (email, web, handouts, face-to-face meetings, APP push communication, etc). It is important use our customer knowledge to address pain points or needs, preferences and highlight why we are the correct business partner to team up with to meet their goals.
Sales: although the co-creation and collaboration with marketing since the beginning of the process is key, the face-to-face meetings are taks to be performed by the sales representatives. During these meetings, all the work done internally (in collaboration with other teams) would be reflected. The KPI to measure might be the customer goals achievement. If we really want to become the new customer business partner, we should be an part of the extended team, understand perfectly the needs and address them in the more efficient way. Each of the members of the sales force should prepare upfront the material to be shared (co-created with Marketing), ensuring as well that the above mentioned corporate message is consistent across the teams
This is not a new topic. The internal alignment between sales and marketing is one of the old challenges all the companies are facing up. ABM initiatives bring up a solution that tackle it, getting impressive business results. Increase sale out and revue is a priority, but will be higher if we establish a strong long term relationship with the customer. This will impact positively in our P&L due the expansion of our portfolio within customer landscape
What do you think now about the Smarketing? Could it worth the effort? If we want to be customer centric, we need to act like that.